South African cricket team coach Ottis Gibson believes that if former cricketer AB de Villiers wanted to be part of ICC Men's Cricket World Cup, he would feature in the Proteas' 15-man squad.
"Personally, I suspect that there are a lot more people wanting AB to be here than AB himself because I believe that if AB wanted to be here, he would be here. But he is wherever he is in the world right now and doing exactly what he wants to be doing. If he wanted to be here, he would be here. That's how I see it," ICC quoted Gibson, as saying.
In a surprise move on May 23 last year, the swashbuckling batsman bid adieu to all forms of international cricket with immediate effect, putting an end to his 14-year-long celebrated career.
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and coach Gibson had earlier revealed de Villiers' wish to play in the World Cup. However, the management refused to consider as the squad for the marquee event was already finalised.
Gibson admitted that the news of de Villiers' retirement came as a shock, but the team had moved on.
"Yeah, of course. Because we had moved on. The interesting thing ... since he's retired, we've won every series that we've played, and I haven't had many AB questions. I sat with some (media) in Cape Town during the camp, and we sat for 20 minutes or half an hour, and there wasn't one AB question like that," he said.
"Suddenly we've come to the World Cup and we've had one bad week, and AB is the saviour. But the guy is retired, he's made his decision, and we as a team, and I guess you guys, as well, we have to live with the decision that he's made, and he has to live with the decision that he's made. To come the day before and say that he'd like to come back would seem a little bit strange to say the least," he added.
When asked about first heating de Villiers' interest in coming back to the team, Gibson said the 35-year-old had called him ahead of the announcement of the 15-man squad for the World Cup.
"AB called me. I think it was the morning that the squad was going to be announced. A lot of other things had gone on before that, of course. The statement that was put out said that he was told if he wanted to be available (for the World Cup) that Pakistan and Sri Lanka were tours that he had to make himself available for, and obviously, he didn't. But I think it was the morning of when the squad was going to be announced that I got told, either the night before or the morning of. I can't remember," he said.
When asked whether there was flexibility with de Villiers' retirement decision, the South African team coach said he had discussed the situation with the former cricketer.
"I actually saw him in December. When I came back on December 12, there was a Mzansi League game at SuperSport Park when I saw him briefly on the field, he was spinning a toss, I was doing an interview on the ground, and I said, 'Are you finished with this retirement nonsense yet', and he said, 'Look, I'm happy with my retirement. I'm happy with the decision I've made' and so on, and that was the end of that," he said.
"He also called me the day that he did retire in May. I don't think you should have to beg a guy to play for his country, but I did make it clear that I thought he was making a bad decision, that he could help us win the World Cup, and he said he had made his decision and it was time to spend time with his family, and that was the end of that really," he added.
Although de Villiers' news has dominated the South African team, Gibson insisted it doesn't matter as the occasional wicket-keeper made his decision.
"Whenever it happened doesn't matter. The fact is he made his decision, and he's said continuously since then that he's happy with the decision that he's made. So then to come the day before the squad is being announced..." he said.
South Africa have lost its three consecutive matches to England, Bangladesh and India, respectively. They will next meet West Indies on June 10 at the Hampshire Bowl, Southampton.